For awhile, foiling dominated the competition barbecue world, sometimes up the highest levels. It's not as popular among serious barbecuers as it used to be. I think it's the best method for learning until the new barbecuer has developed some fire management fire skills, learned not to open the doors unnecessarily, and acquired a little equipment. Foiling is an easy way to cppls ribs successfully, but it's by no means the best way to make ribs.
Mopping has pluses and minuses. Oddly, mopping does not keep meat moist, it's actually drying. This is because during the time the door is open and the cook is mopping, the hot humid air from the cook chamber is replaced with cold, dry air. The fire, burns hotter and drier to replace the heat; and in the end, the meat is dried somewhat. Fortunately, ribs can afford a little drying.
The benefits from mopping are entirely in texture and flavor.
I neither recommend mopping, nor recommend that you don't do it. I sometimes mop ribs.
One thing I do recommend in small, drafty pits like Brinkmann SnPPs is a water pan.
The competition world is turning increasingly away from offsets and increasingly towards double-walled, insulated cabinets -- especially those by Backwoods and Stump's Smokers. If you can afford one of these, it's the best way to go.
The best choice for an under $300 smoker, for nearly everyone is the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM). Fire management is a breeze -- and that's a huge part of barbecue; it's very portable; it makes a very good, small grill. The knocks on the WSM are that it's difficult to clean, and that it's grate diameter is too small to cook whole slabs of spares or beef ribs laid out flat. Not that these can't be cooked, but it requires some mickey-mousing.
Small, inexpensive offsets are a world unto themselves. The best of the bunch is the Bar B Chef (BBC) sold only by Barbeques Galore. The Brinkmann SnPP is comparable to the Char-Griller, the Silver Smoker, the Hondo and a few others. These are the most difficult type of smoker to use which can still be used well.
You talked about "stick burning," and these are very poor choices. Most of these require some degree of modification to work their best -- the BBC requires the least because most of the modifications are incorporated as part of the design. Small offsets are advertised as doing double duty as large grills. Yes, you can grill on them; but if you're serious about grilling you don't want one as your main grill. The charcoal grates cannot be adjusted relative to the food grates (or vice versa), and the top of the barrel is a tight fit for food and ands. These are probably the most popular smokers in the US more out of ignorance than good sense. Naturally, I've been using one form or another of small offset since 1980.
If you buy a small offset there are certain mods which make them work a lot better. These are: Diverter/Manifold on the cook chamber side, just above the firebox opening; flue lowered to grate height; thermometer hole moved -- or door-mounted thermometer replaced with a probe which can be mounted near the food, and a readout which may be monitored remotely (best); a charcoal basket; and a water pan.
Here's a link explaining most of the mods, and how to do them: http://www.homebbq.com/library/SmokerModifications.pdf
Fortunately, before deciding on which mods to do and not to do; how to do them; where to buy the accessories, etc., you get a chance to come to your senses and choose a 'q that won't make you do all the work.
If, for whatever reason, you decide to get a small offset, let's talk a little before you decide which one to buy. One thing to consider is where you live -- certain regional retailers like Academy and Barbeques Galore offer models you just don't see anywhere else.
Slightly Better Offsets:
This includes the low end Horizons. It all includes the mid-level Brinkmanns and several other manufacturers and pits. Horizon is a company started by a couple of guys who worked for Oklahoma Joe's before that company disappeared and was reborn as an offshoot of New Braunfels. Which is owned by ... well, I'm not sure who owns it right now. Turns out that many of the mainstay names in American barbeque have owned one another over the years.
What characterizes these pits as "slightly better" is their construction -- all 1/4" steel, or 1/4" steel where it counts -- like the firebox, and their larger size. The size makes a huge difference. Especially if you want to burn all wood.
Again, your choice of pits should probably take your area of residence into account. There are good manufacturers all over the country. None really has a lock on the ultimate pit. For what it's worth, most of these mid-sized, mid-priced pits are based on a style called the "Longhorn," which was made by several manufacturers. Brinkmann still makes one. But it ain't cheap.
All wood fires:
You can do it in a small offset, but you don't want to. The fireboxes are too small to support large pieces of wood. Small pieces burn so fast and so hot that any bad piece -- whether slightly green, slightly moldy, slightly wet, or ... -- will just destroy your food. On top of that, you'll have to tend the fire every 45 minutes. Not too bad with a 5 hour rib cook, but **** on a 12 hour brisket you're trying to cook for lunch. That means pulling an all-nighter. Not fun.
If you want a "stick burner," it's worth buying a cooker that will support the habit.
If you buy a small offset, plan on using a charcoal basket, or possibly a propane burner for heat like the Afterburner H. About the charcoal basket, if you go into any forum dedicated to smoking/barbecue you'll find that almost everyone running small pits either uses a WSM or a charcoal basket. It makes your fire last about 40% longer, use about 1/3 less fuel, and require a lot less tending and adjustment. Downside? Costs about $10 and takes about 20 minutes to put together. Worth it? You tell me.